I know I said I was going to post this tomorrow, but I've decided to go ahead and put it up tonight, because if I wait until after school tomorrow, that's only a few hours away from the premiere. And at that point, we're all gonna be way too excited to read fic. ;)
So. Here it is. The epilogue. I just wanted to let you guys know how incredibly grateful I am for all of your support for this story. Honestly, it's flattering. Every single follow, like, review, favorite, whatever, is so appreciated. You guys are completely awesome, and I wish I could give you all hugs! But since I can't do that, I hope this chapter makes it up to you.
Before he knows it, they're a month away from the first anniversary of the bombing. It feels as if the preceding year has flown by, which is ironic, because Tony has experienced a lifetime's worth of change. His shift from agent back to cop- difficult at first, but more comfortable now- is the least of them. The greatest difference is in himself and the fact that he finally stopped being terrified and took a chance on something he has wanted for so long that he isn't even sure when it started anymore.
And now that he's gone this far, he's got one more risk in mind.
Usually he and Ziva prefer to stay in rather than go on actual dates, but tonight, after having dinner at a restaurant, they find themselves walking hand-in-hand along the Potomac. It's chilly by the river, so they huddle into their windbreakers and each other while D.C. looms in front of them.
They come to a place that is far from anybody else and somewhat removed from city noise. Tony stops, turns his back against the railing, pulls her close to him. She slips her arms around his waist and nestles her head into his shoulder. "Well, hello," she teases.
"Hey." His response is more breathy than hers because he's getting nervous and his heart is speeding up. After walking for half an hour, he's found the perfect spot. There is nothing left to check, to plan, to take care of. It's time.
Do it now.
Okay. On the count of three. One… two… three.
He doesn't move. In fact, he tightens his hold on Ziva, for his own comfort more than anything. Seeming to notice that something is amiss, she draws away just enough to see his face. "You okay?"
One of her hands slips into his back pocket, and he can feel the testosterone start up, knows that if he doesn't pull it together right this second, he's going to get too caught up in her to focus on what he needs to say.
Tony reaches back to grasp that hand, then takes her other one. She steps away, allowing their arms to extend between their bodies, and cocks her head to one side as she watches him. "Are you sure?"
Instead of replying, he raises their entwined fingers and presses hers to his lips. A smile graces Ziva's face. "I'm gonna talk now. Hear me out, but if you think I'm crazy or this is too sudden or whatever… just say so, and I won't push. Okay?"
Brow furrowed in confusion, she nods. "Okay."
"There's only one thing I can say with absolute certainty that I want for the rest of my life, and it's to be with you. You're my partner and my best friend and… I can't even start to describe it. You're just my everything, and I know that you always will be."
Releasing her hands, he reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out the box containing the ring he spent two hours picking out. He goes down on one knee, shaking fingers struggling to open the box. Once he gets it, he looks up into the stunned face of the woman he's completely in love with, and the words fall right out of his mouth. "Ziva, will you marry me?"
"Yes," she says immediately. "Yes. Yes." Her voice breaks and she can only watch wordlessly as he slips the ring onto her finger. And then he stands, hugs her to him, kisses her face again and again. He's never gonna let her go.
"That a ring?"
Clearly it is, but Ziva knows that the question is more loaded than it appears on the surface. She has been waiting all morning for him to notice the sun shining through the repaired windows of the (original) NCIS headquarters and glinting off of her hand. More than once, she has purposely turned the ring in his direction, hoping he will bring it up and she won't have to. It surprises her that it took him this long- although, now that she thinks about it, perhaps he was only waiting for McGee and the obnoxious probie to get out of the bullpen.
"Yes," she answers, showing it to him. "Tony proposed on Saturday."
Gibbs nods, and then, to her immense relief, he smiles. "Congratulations."
"Thank you." Ziva finds herself grinning back at him. Then she thinks of her fiancé, currently at work with a team that isn't theirs. "Gibbs, you should give Tony a call. He would like to hear from you."
Her boss exhales, opens his mouth to say something, but Vance chooses that moment to emerge from MTAC and demand Gibbs' presence there.
Ziva watches him go up the stairs and wonders why he and Tony are still so cautious with each other.
Tony is packing up to go home when his cell phone rings. Other cops are still working, so it's loud; he presses the phone to one ear and plugs the other with his hand. "DiNozzo."
"It's me," says Gibbs, the last person Tony expected to call him. They aren't on the outs, not anymore, but neither one of them feels any need to have just-because chats. Before he can ask what's up, Gibbs continues. "Saw Ziva's ring. How much did that thing cost you?"
Surprised, he doesn't say anything for a moment, and then he starts to laugh. Real, unsuppressed laughter. "Enough," he finally answers.
"Well, you must've done good, 'cause she spent all day staring at it."
He feels immensely (and probably irrationally) pleased with himself.
"Listen," Gibbs continues. "Just want to tell you that I'm happy for you guys. And I'm also really damn proud."
"Yeah. I haven't made things easy on you two, but you made it work anyway. You did what I wasn't able to do. Marry her and be happy, Anthony. You've earned it."
"Thank you," he says hoarsely, because suddenly, he can't summon more volume than that.
"And… I hope you want me there."
Actually, Tony knows for a fact that Ziva is going to ask Gibbs to walk her down the aisle. He keeps that information to himself, though; it's her surprise. "We do."
For the billionth time in the past forty-eight hours, a surge of joy appears suddenly and overcomes Tony. "I still can't believe she said yes."
There might just be a smile in Gibbs' voice when he says, "I can."